Of all the simple pleasures that life has to offer, there is nothing quite like a cup of freshly brewed coffee on a winter’s night. The warmth spreads throughout one’s body, reinvigorating a soul weary from the trials of the day. While a single cup never feels like it’s enough, I am quite careful of taking all good things in moderation. Plus, I’m fairly susceptible to caffeine; drinking coffee might even be a form of masochism, knowing how much more difficult it will be for me to fall asleep tonight. I can’t help myself though, I’m an addict.
Everybody I’ve ever met has had the same experiences foraying into the world of coffee. Your entry is guided by predecessors eager to see your reaction to unbridled bitterness. However, something about the flavour grows on you, and over time it become palatable – enjoyable, even. For me, coffee was a symbol of the adult world. Like many other kids, I felt a need to prove that I was more mature than my peers. Being able to enjoy coffee was the evidence to substantiate my claims. My gateway drug into the coffee world were caffè mocha. They’re essentially the mix between a coffee and a hot chocolate, with adequate amounts of milk and sugar to subdue the bitterness of coffee.
Today, I’ve actually reached the point of only drinking coffee black. Somewhere on the road, sweet things didn’t appeal to me as much and I began discovering that there were more flavours behind coffee than just ‘bitter’. Whereas before I had assumed that describing coffee as ‘fruity’ or ‘nutty’ was some sort of pretension, there are times now when I can actually pick out characteristics of the coffee. It’s actually pretty crazy how much difference experience can make to perception.
So, how do I make coffee? A couple years ago, I bought a bunch of equipment for making pour over. At first, it was only the brewer, grinder, and filters, but I soon discovered that a gooseneck kettle was actually pretty important in pour over. The issue with regular kettles is that the pour is extremely inconsistent. The moment you start pouring, the grind ends up getting completely unsettled displaced. Out of all the equipment I have, the kettle’s the only expensive item. One feature that my kettle has is the ability to set the desired temperature of the water.
I fill the kettle up and heat the water to 96-98C. There’s some logic about keeping the temperature below boiling in order to not burn the beans, though I haven’t really tested changing it much. While the water is heating, I grind two tablespoons of medium roast coffee. Grinding doesn’t take too long, and once it’s done I place the brewer onto my cup, add the filter, and wait for the coffee to finish heating. Once the coffee is done heating, I pour some of the water to soak the filter – there’s a paper-y flavour which might seep into the coffee if you don’t wash it first. Afterwards, I dump the paper water out and pour the grinds into the brewer.
The brewing part is the fun part. The first step is carefully wetting all the grounds, and waiting for about half a minute for the water to completely drain. At this point, carbon dioxide is released and some bubbles form on the surface. Afterwards, I keep the water level fixed at about four centimeters above where the grind is resting, adding more water when necessary. Once the cup is full, I compost the filter and go enjoy my coffee.
When I first started making coffee, it was somewhat of a chore. Nowadays, it’s more of a ritual of sorts, an enjoyable activity for winding down or taking a break. I’ve really got to thank one of my former managers for getting me into pour over again. At my company, we didn’t have a coffee machine so my manager at the time bought a pour over set. Although I had all the equipment, I seldom actually used it to make coffee, instead buying it from coffee shops in the area. Making coffee in the office changed everything. Our mornings became a game of seeing how we could optimize our coffee-making process in both quantity and quality. There’s a physics major at my company, and I remember times when we tried to calculate what the best water level and coffee to water ratios were. I ended up bringing my gooseneck kettle to the office, adding a new dimension to the process. Those were good times.
I’ve been considering new ways of making coffee, such as by aeropress, french press, or espresso machine. What stops me, though, is that I’m quite happy with the pour over coffee I make. At my parents’ home, we have an espresso machine and I abused it quite heavily while I stayed there. Still, there’s something nice about manually doing each step and being able to savour the fruits of your labour. The labour is rewarded by a drink whose initial impressions of bitterness give way to an intricacy enjoyed only in the span of mere gulps.